Marcus Lawler struggles with the idea of how to put into context for the public not just his recent performances but those of athletes in general.
Maybe high jumpers should have a door standing next to the mats, he suggests, just so people - non-athletics aficionados - can appreciate the magnificence of the leaps.
Even Lawler, who at 23 had spent his life watching the sport, is in awe at the achievements of his peers.
Last month at the Cork City Sports, the Carlow man ran the second fastest time ever by an Irish athlete for 200m. 20.40 was the time - he took 0.31 off his personal best - to move within 0.10 of Paul Hession’s 11-year-old Irish record. He's also the third fastest Irishman ever over 100m with a PB of 10.30.
“When you see a corner forward hop it, dummy solo it with his right and kick it over with his left, it looks unbelievable. In athletics, when a time comes up on the clock, it’s just not the same.
“To see it in the flesh, it’s phenomenal what people are jumping, what people are sprinting, it’s phenomenal what times 800m runners cover the distance in.
“I don’t think it’s appreciated enough. To do that time or jump or throw, the amount of hours that go into getting there is unbelievable.”
To take such a chunk off his PB was not a massive surprise for Lawler. It’s a door he’d been knocking on for a while. 20.43 was clocked last year but the wind was over the legal limit.
It just all came together for him at the CIT track. Minutes earlier, Phil Healy set a new Irish women’s 200m record. The crowd going wild, Lawler knew he had to step up.
It’s helped that Sydney Siame was on the track with him. The Zambian ran a national record of 20.18.
The stand was full and all around the edges was packed as well. You could see familiar faces and people cheering you on. It was your home meet and that helped.
The hype helped too - people were going mental after Phil’s run. She ran a national record, Feidhlim [Kelly] on the mic was going mad and I was up next and I was thinking, ‘I need to do something here myself’. The atmosphere is definitely a factor in good performances.
That race was so fast, everyone else in the field felt like it was either sink or swim. When you’re in that hot field, you have to go with it and you can’t fear them. Straight into the deep end and see where it takes you.
As his time came up on the screen, Lawler gave a little fist pump. He’d been hoping for 20.30 - Siame had been in his vision - but 20.40 was a mark he’d take.
A week later, he lost a ding-dong battle with Leon Reid in the 200m at the National Championships where he ran 20.79. Though well behind his new PB on the clock, it was not in terms of performance in his mind. The track was wet and there was a minus wind. He’d put in two serious performances back-to-back.
Lawler is unable to tell how many hours he’s spent getting to this point. Even on a weekly basis, he’s unsure.
A student at Carlow IT where he’s doing a part-time strength and conditioning masters, he trains six days a week.
His mother, Patricia Lawler, is his coach. The 200m final at the National Championships was a great moment for her. Marcus’s training partner Adam Murphy made the 200m last eight as well.
Parts of his race, he now feels have been nailed. They can't get much better. There are others which require improvement: acceleration over the first 50m and endurance over the last 50m. Both are long-term projects.
I’m always making sure: Am I eating enough? Am I eat the right stuff? Did I get enough sleep last night? Am I going to bed early enough? I just see it as all being worth it. It’s definitely hard because you can’t just take a shortcut.
If you want to run European class times, world class times, these are the things you need to do outside of training times. Everyone trains but it’s the little one-percenters outside of that which can add up.
A non-existent social life doesn’t seem to bother him.
“It’s hard to catch up with friends over the summer. Nights out are a no-go. It comes down to, ‘Is it worth it?’ and I think it is. I’m lucky that the people around me who appreciate that and understand that. There is stuff you have to sacrifice.”
Lawler is funded by Athletics Ireland. He’s currently at developmental level but hopes the times he’s achieved this year will raise his financial aid.
“It’s just about enough to keep me going but hopefully the times that I’ve run over the last couple of weeks mean that funding will go up.
“I obviously don’t have a job. I don’t think that I can have a job and do what I do.”
Local businesses have also helped. Autoimage Carlow have provided him with a car. When you train between Carlow, Kilkenny and Dublin, that convenience is a major help. SuperValu in Carlow along with a number of other small businesses have aided his progression down the years.
Carlow IT is the big one though. Their scholarship has boosted him to this level, as has facilitating him with the part-time course. It gives the breathing room and flexibility he needs.
Lawler goes to the European Championships in Berlin in the form of his life. Two years ago at the Euros in Amsterdam, he got out of his 200m heat. He got lane one in the semi-final and finished down the field. It was a building block, one from which he aims to take a big step.
"If I can produce that Cork form out in Berlin, I’ll definitely be able to mix it with the higher ranked guys in Europe.
"I don’t really fear them now. "
Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile